A His­tory of Pic­tures

The Week Middle East - - Arts -

by David Hock­ney and Martin Gay­ford

Thames & Hud­son 360pp £30 David Hock­ney doesn’t see him­self as an artist, said Michael Bird in The Daily Tele­graph. “I’d pre­fer to say I’m mak­ing pic­tures,” he tells Martin Gay­ford in this fas­ci­nat­ing vol­ume based on con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the two. The book is a more or less chrono­log­i­cal me­an­der through the his­tory of pic­tures – or, as the au­thors like to call them, “two-di­men­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tions of three-di­men­sional things on any flat sur­face”. They be­gin 30,000 years ago with the cave paint­ings of Pa­le­olithic artists, and end (“why not?”) with Hock­ney’s re­cent “pho­to­graphic draw­ings”. In be­tween, they dis­cuss ev­ery­thing from 13th cen­tury Chi­nese ink-brush paint­ings, to film stills from Casablanca, and the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the seascapes of Walt Dis­ney’s Pinoc­chio and Hiroshige’s Naruto Whirlpool. Much of the ma­te­rial isn’t new – Hock­ney once again gives us his con­tro­ver­sial the­sis about the early use of cam­era ob­scura – but the au­thors’ en­thu­si­asm is so re­fresh­ing the rep­e­ti­tions don’t mat­ter.

Not only is Hock­ney a “great artist”, said A.N. Wil­son in The Sun­day Times: he’s also a “highly in­tel­li­gent com­men­ta­tor on art”. A His­tory of Pic­tures abounds with “spine-tin­gling” ob­ser­va­tions – the claim that “Car­avag­gio in­vented Hol­ly­wood light­ing”, for ex­am­ple, or that we re­ally “see in 4D – time be­ing the fourth di­men­sion”. One thing’s for sure: “I won’t read a more in­ter­est­ing book all year.” Hock­ney may be ap­proach­ing 80, but he re­mains as youth­ful as ever, said Clive James in The Guardian. By sheer bril­liance of per­cep­tion, he has “put him­self in a po­si­tion where ev­ery ma­jor pic­ture he knows about is a bot­tom­less well of ex­cite­ment”. And in this “mag­i­cal flight of a book”, he has gen­er­ously shared that ex­cite­ment with oth­ers.

Hock­ney’s Self-Por­trait with Blue Gui­tar

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